Love him or hate him, that’s Dr Mahathir.
Regarding his most recent book, ‘A Doctor in the House’, those who love him have crooned over his recounting of interesting events like Ops Lalang (which he claimed he was against), his asserted anti-ISA stand, Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged ‘escapades’, LKY's fantasy, and the missed chance of Tengku Razaleigh (Ku Li) in the 1987 UMNO presidential election, etc.
His supporters no doubt would have nodded in approval at the self-authored vindication of his conduct as PM, while his detractors naturally sneered at what they described as a brazen hypocritical attempt to white-wash his sinister record.
I personally believe the ‘Truth’ lies somewhere in between, though I have to decline defining ‘Truth’ because, unlike mathematics, it has various hues according to who views it ('Truth', that is).
Anyway, I won’t bother to touch on salacious stuff like the alleged Kenny Hill romp. Instead I will pass on what I learnt from my uncles about Ku Li in the UMNO civil war at that time (24 April 1987) when both Dr M and him went for broke in the UMNO party contest to be president and consequently the PM of Malaysia.
Of course I can’t vouch for the ‘Truth’ of the story I’m about to write, but as the Italians would say 'Se non è vero, è ben trovato' meaning 'Even if it’s not true, it’s a good story'.
In his just published memoirs, Dr Mahathir claimed, as reported by The Malaysian Insider that Ku Li’s impatience cost him the PM’s post.
But my uncles told me otherwise, that Ku Li's monumental loss was due to two factors.
The first, probably the minor one, had to start off with the telling that Ku Li was then UMNO’s treasurer. Due to his amazing efforts, he was responsible for having a new impressive UMNO building built [don’t know whether it’s the same one today?] It was a proud moment for UMNO, but alas, like Australians, UMNO members didn’t like a ‘tall poppy’.
The term ‘tall poppy’ means a person of real ability and commendable merits but who is resented and usually attacked and criticized because his achievements has put him significantly above his peers. Thus such a 'tall poppy' has to be chopped down. With the erection of the new UMNO building, Ku Li unfortunately became a ‘tall poppy’ to some.
Apparently, believing it would benefit his election prospects, it was said he arranged for the party assembly (election) to be held at the new building, perhaps to remind party delegates of his achievements as party treasurer through the high visibility of the impressive new 'monument'.
But some of his mates warned him the UMNO members might not take kindly to this, and could well vote against him. Hmmm, would that be a reflection of some members' resentment of a man they saw as not sufficiently humble enough to be a good Malay and therefore not fit to lead them, or was it just plain jealousy of a ‘tall poppy’? Who knows?
Hah, now we now come to the second factor, centred around a young bloke by the name of Najib Razak ;-). He had just become the party's acting Youth Chief, when his predecessor Anwar Ibrahim wakakaka vacated the post to stand for election as a party VP.
The story went that Najib was initially in Ku Li’s camp, with a voting bloc which would have seen Ku Li nicely into the party presidential post - remember, Ku Li lost by a mere 43 votes! But alas, it was said that Najib changed side at the last minute, and the rest is UMNO and Malaysian history.
My uncles remembered reading in the newspapers how Najib subsequently went to elaborate attempts to 'honour' Dr Mahathir, with a public show of fealty when the latter came back from an overseas trip. All the trappings and paraphernalia of Malay feudalistic honours and pledges of loyalty were unstintingly and ostentatiously extravagant, not unlike what Perkasa did for our former PM when he took on the post of patron to the so-called NGO, except of course Najib's efforts were far more stupendous wakakaka.
Perhaps the laddie was so petrified of his zigzagging ways right up to the last minute of the critical party election that post-election, he would have been humongously worried he won't be accepted or viewed with suspicion by the new No 1 wakakaka. But Dr Mahathir always have a soft spot for young Najib. I suspect it's the Old Man's hutang budi (debt) to the late Tun Razak who brought him (Dr M) back to the party after he was expelled by Tunku.
So, with all these stories by my elders, I wonder about Dr Mahathir’s claim that Ku Li lost the post because he was impatient.
Say if my uncles' rendition is not true, would it still be a good story? Wakakaka!